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bilked; bilking; bilks

transitive verb

: to block the free development of : frustrate
fate bilks their hopes
: to cheat out of something valuable : defraud
bilking investors out of their life savings
: to evade payment of or to
bilks his creditors
: to obtain (something) by defrauding someone
The Tampa couple sent out phony sonograms and bilked money from couples wanting children, authorities say.Brady Dennis
: to slip away from
bilked her pursuers
bilker noun


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: an untrustworthy tricky individual : cheat

Did you know?

Initially, "bilking" wasn't considered cheating-just good strategy for cribbage players. Language historians aren't sure where "bilk" originated, but they have noticed that its earliest uses occur in contexts referring to cribbage. Part of the scoring in cribbage involves each player adding cards from his or her hand to a pile of discards called the "crib." At the end of a hand, the dealer gets any points in the crib. Strategically, then, it's wisest for the dealer's opponent to discard non-scoring cards-the ones most likely to "balk," or put a check on, the dealer's score. Etymologists theorize that "bilk" may have originated as an alteration of that card-game "balk."

Example Sentences

Verb an investigation revealed that the garage had been bilking motorists for repairs that had never been made Noun people who lost money in the scheme discovered that the investment company was a fake and the “owner” just a bilk
Recent Examples on the Web
Oglethorpe, MEAG and Dalton all sued Georgia Power earlier this year, claiming the company was trying to bilk them out of nearly $700 million by unilaterally changing a contract. Jeff Amy, ajc, 14 Oct. 2022 Today, Taylor alleges that Hynes was a talented grifter who was mainly interested in using Live as a means to bilk investors, hang out with celebrities, and bring young women into his orbit. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 18 Feb. 2023 But the money also served as a wellspring for criminal activity, as malicious actors took advantage of SBA and its poor oversight to bilk Washington out of seemingly massive sums. Tony Romm, Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2023 But the money also served as a wellspring for criminal activity, as malicious actors took advantage of SBA and its poor oversight to bilk Washington for massive sums. Tony Romm, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Jan. 2023 Phone scammers are threatening Clark County residents with arrest to bilk them out of thousands of dollars, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 18 Jan. 2023 The study has even made its way to the Colbert Report, where host Stephen Colbert suggested that the key to rebooting the economy is using these ads to bilk monkeys out of their money . Veronique Greenwood, Discover Magazine, 30 June 2011 Scammers have a lot of opportunities to bilk people during the holiday season. Dalvin Brown, WSJ, 6 Dec. 2022 But the money became a tempting target for malicious actors, who took advantage of lax rules - and inadequate oversight - to bilk the government for staggering sums. Tony Romm, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Dec. 2022
And, despite its super hinky backstory, a bronze behemoth of bilk is taking shape in Everett. Yvonne Abraham,, 17 May 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bilk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Verb and Noun

perhaps alteration of balk entry 1

First Known Use


1641, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1777, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bilk was in 1641


Dictionary Entries Near bilk

Cite this Entry

“Bilk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Mar. 2023.

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